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Micromachines 2011, 2, 274-294; doi:10.


ISSN 2072-666X


Recent Progress in Piezoelectric Conversion and Energy

Harvesting Using Nonlinear Electronic Interfaces and Issues in
Small Scale Implementation
Daniel Guyomar * and Mickal Lallart

Universitde Lyon, INSA-Lyon, LGEF EA 682, F-69621 Villeurbanne, France;

E-Mail: mickael.lallart@insa-lyon.fr

* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: daniel.guyomar@insa-lyon.fr;

Tel.: +33-04-7243-8158; Fax: +33-04-7243-8874.

Received: 2 April 2011; in revised form: 23 May 2011 / Accepted: 25 May 2011 /
Published: 3 June 2011

Abstract: This paper aims at providing an up-to-date review of nonlinear electronic

interfaces for energy harvesting from mechanical vibrations using piezoelectric coupling.
The basic principles and the direct application to energy harvesting of nonlinear treatment
of the output voltage of the transducers for conversion enhancement will be recalled, and
extensions of this approach presented. Latest advances in this field will be exposed, such as
the use of intermediate energy tanks for decoupling or initial energy injection for
conversion magnification. A comparative analysis of each of these techniques will be
performed, highlighting the advantages and drawbacks of the methods, in terms of
efficiency, performance under several excitation conditions, complexity of implementation
and so on. Finally, a special focus of their implementation in the case of low voltage output
transducers (as in the case of microsystems) will be presented.

Keywords: piezoelectric; energy conversion; energy harvesting; energy scavenging;


1. Introduction

The increasing growth in terms of autonomous devices, promoted both by industrial fields
(aeronautics and transports, civil engineering, biomedical engineering, etc.) and personal applications
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(home automation, nomad devices, etc.) has raised the issue of powering such systems. Primary
batteries, that initially have encouraged this development, are nowadays less popular because of their
limited lifespan [1], which raise maintenance issues, as well as due to their complex and costly
recycling process. Therefore, a recent trend to address this problem has consisted of using ambient
energy from the environment to supply autonomous devices, making them self-powered.
Several energy sources can achieve this purpose, for instance solar or thermal [2]. However, much
research has focused on using mechanical energy [3], as such a source is commonly available in
small-scale systems. In this domain, piezoelectric elements are of particular interest, because of their
high energy densities and integration potential, hence making them a premium choice for the design of
self-powered small-scale devices [4-12].
Nevertheless, the energy that can be harvested using Piezoelectric Electrical Generators (PEGs) is
still limited to the range of a few tens of microwatts to a few milliwatts, as the mechanical source
features limited power and because the coupling coefficient of piezoelectric materials is quite low and
localized at particular frequencies, especially when using the elements in flexural solicitation (which is
the most common approach to match the input vibration spectrum and increase the input mechanical
energy). In order to address this issue, several approaches have been proposed, such as the use of
intrinsic mechanical nonlinearities [13-16], which aim at increasing the input energy in the host
structure to provide more power.
Apart from the mechanical approach, nonlinear electronic interfaces have also been proposed in
order to increase the conversion abilities of piezoelements, and therefore to harvest more energy. The
purpose of the present study is to provide an up-to-date view of such systems. In this field,
Guyomar et al. introduced a simple, low-cost process to artificially enhance the coupling coefficient of
electromechanical systems using piezomaterials [17-22]. Based on a simple nonlinear process of the
output voltage of the active material, this approach, initially developed for vibration damping
purposes [23-27], permits a gain of up to 20 in terms of energy conversion, and 10 in terms of
harvested energy [28]. Several techniques derived from this original method have been proposed, each
of them addressing a particular concern (broadband vibration, impedance matching, energy harvesting
ability enhancement, etc.).
This paper aims at highlighting the specificities, advantages and drawbacks of each of the nonlinear
electronic interfaces that have been proposed in the literature (in terms of performance, load
independency and so on). A particular focus will be placed on the implementation issues of these
techniques for micro-scale devices (for example performance under low voltage output or scalability
of the control circuit).
The paper is organized as follows: Section 2 aims at briefly introducing the basics of energy
harvesting, exposing the energy conversion chain in microgenerators, as well as the modeling of the
structure and the possible options for increasing the conversion abilities. Then the principles of the
nonlinear switching approach and its application to energy harvesting is outlined in Section 3. The
performance and implementation issues of these techniques derived from the nonlinear approaches will
then be discussed in Section 4. Finally, Section 5 briefly concludes the paper, recalling the main
observations and tentatively classifying the techniques considering several criteria.
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2. Modeling and Conversion Enhancement Principles

Generally speaking, a vibration energy harvester can be represented using the schematic depicted in
Figure 1. First the mechanical energy (e.g., applied external force or acceleration) is converted into
mechanical energy in the host structure. The latter is then converted into electrical energy by the
piezoelectric element, and is finally transferred in electrical form to a storage stage.

Figure 1. General schematic of a vibration energy harvester.

Therefore, there are three steps in the conversion process:

1. Conversion of the input energy into mechanical energy.
2. Electromechanical conversion.
3. Electrical energy transfer.
However, it is important to note that the conversion processes are affected by the next stage, due to
backward coupling. Hence, converting mechanical energy leads to a modification of the properties of
the global structure, therefore changing the input energy, and extracting electrical energy from the
piezoelectric element changes the amount of mechanical energy converted into electricity. Therefore
the design of an efficient microgenerator has to consider:
1. The maximization of the input energy.
2. The maximization of the electromechanical energy (coupling coefficient).
3. The optimization of the energy transfer.
Nevertheless, as stated previously, these design considerations cannot be performed independently
because of the backward coupling. At this stage it can be noted that the scope of this paper is to review
nonlinear electronic interface for the optimization of the conversion. Hence, only the last two
items will be considered. Efficient energy harvesters that consist of taking advantage of mechanical
nonlinearities (and in particular nonlinear compliance) to ensure a maximization of the input
energy [13-16] will therefore not be discussed.
In the following, particular attention will therefore be placed on the last two points: optimization of
the energy conversion and energy transfer. Considering that the electromechanical system can be
modeled by a coupled spring-mass-damper system depicted in Figure 2 [25,29]:
Mu Cu K E u F V
I u C0V
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where u, F, V and I respectively represent the displacement, applied force (The force F can be replaced
by the product of the mass by the acceleration in the case of seismic harvester (indirect coupling)),
piezoelectric output voltage and current flowing out of the piezoelement. M refers to the dynamic
mass, C to the structural damping coefficient and KE to the open-circuit stiffness. Finally, and C0
stand for the force factor and clamped capacitance of the piezoelectric insert.
The energy analysis of such a system over a time range [t0;t0+] is obtained by integrating in the
time domain the product of the motion equation by the velocity and the product of the electrical
equation by the voltage:
1 2 t0 t0 t0 t0 t0
M u C u dt K E u 2 Fudt Vudt

2 t0 t0 t0 t0 t0

t0 t0
1 2 t0
t0 VIdt 2 C0 V t0 t0 Vudt

Figure 2. Electromechanically coupled spring-mass-damper system.

u, F


From Equation (2), it can be shown that the converted energy is represented by the time integral of
the product of the voltage by the speed (with a multiplying coefficient ), which can be decomposed
into the electrostatic energy on the piezoelectric element and energy transferred to the electrical
system. Hence, in order to increase the conversion abilities of the piezoelectric material, three ways
can be envisaged:
1. Increase of the voltage.
2. Reduction of the time shift between speed and voltage (approximating the voltage and
speed by monochromatic functions ( u uM sin t and V VM sin t ), the time
integral over a time period of their product yields Vudt cos , which is
0 2
therefore maximal for 0 ).

3. Increase the coupling term ().

The last option implies the change of the material itself. In this domain, single crystals have
recently been investigated [30,31], but their high cost, low conformability and processing complexity
make them quite delicate to use in realistic implementations. The discussion about this material aspect
is however out of the scope of this paper.
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3. Switching Techniques

As the principles of energy harvesting enhancement have been described, the aim of this section is
to present the various electronic interfaces that have been proposed in the literature, and to discuss the
performance of each. Basically, the approaches can be divided into two categories, whether the
piezoelectric element is directly connected to the storage stage, or not.
Nevertheless, whatever the considered case, the operation principles are quite similar and consist of
using the two possibilities for enhancing the conversion (i.e., voltage increase and reduction of the
time shift between voltage and velocity). Actually both of these possibilities may be obtained by
taking advantage of the dielectric nature of the piezoelectric element. If the piezoelectric voltage is
reversed on zero speed values (extremum displacements) as depicted in Figure 3(a), this shapes an
additional piecewise constant voltage proportional to the sign of the speed. The voltage continuity also
insures a cumulative process that increases its magnitude, denoting the conversion enhancement as
well. Hence, from Figure 3(a) (bottom), it can be seen that the nonlinear approach permits both
reducing the time shift between speed and voltage, as well as significantly increasing the voltage level,
allowing the conversion magnification.

Figure 3. (a) Waveforms of the displacement, speed and piezovoltage induced by the
switching process on zero speed values (the bottom figure shows how the voltage in the
nonlinear processing may be decomposed into a voltage proportional to the displacement
and a piecewise constant voltage that is proportional to the sign of the speed and much
larger than the original voltage); (b) Implementation of the nonlinear treatment.

(a) (b)

Such a processing of the voltage inversion can be implemented in a really simple way, by briefly
connecting the piezoelectric element to an inductor (Figure 3(b)), therefore shaping a resonant
electrical network. In particular, if the digital switch is closed for half a period of the electrical
oscillation (whose period is much smaller than the vibration period), this leads to an almost
instantaneous inversion of the voltage. This solution for inverting the voltage across the piezoelectric
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element requires very low power as it does not need any external energy, except to control the digital
switch. This autonomous voltage inverter can therefore be made self-powered [21,26,27,32-38],
consuming a very small amount of power (typically 3% of the electrostatic energy available on the
active material); as will be discussed in Section 4.2. As the energy conversion gain is typically in the
range of a factor of 20, this energy requirement can easily be neglected.
However, because of the losses in the switching device (especially resistive losses in the inductor),
the voltage inversion is not perfect and characterized by the inversion coefficient , giving the ratio of
the absolute voltage after and before the inversion process (0 1).
Finally, it can be noted that the concept of the nonlinear operation is independent from the physical
phenomenon (as long as one quantity is continuous), allowing its application to other conversion
effects [28,39,40].

3.1. Direct Energy Transfer

The first class of nonlinear electronic interfaces for conversion enhancement consists of performing the
previously described switching concept with a direct connection of the piezoelectric element to the
storage stage.
In this case, starting from the standard implementation of an energy harvester as depicted in
Figure 4 which consists of simply connecting the piezoelectric element to a storage capacitor
(connected to the load) through a rectifier bridge, several architectures may be considered.

Figure 4. Standard energy harvesting interface.

The first and simplest one consists of connecting the switching element in parallel (Figure 5(a)) or
in series (Figure 5(b)) with the piezomaterial, leading to the concept of Synchronized Switch
Harvesting on Inductor (SSHI).
The principles of operations of the parallel SSHI [14] consist of inverting the voltage after an
energy extraction process, while inversion and energy extraction occur at the same time for the series
SSHI [18,41]. Hence, the different steps involved in the energy harvesting process are as follows:
Parallel SSHI:
(i) Open circuit phase
(ii) Harvesting phase
(iii) Inversion phase
Series SSHI:
(i) Open circuit phase
(ii) Harvesting and inversion phase
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It can also be noted that the series SSHI harvesting approach may be obtained by replacing the
switching inductance by a transformer, which actually allows an artificial change in the load seen by
the piezoelectric element (by a factor 1/m2, with m being the transformer ratio). This approach, called
SSHI-MR (Synchronized Switch Harvesting on Inductor using Magnetic Rectifier), also allows
dividing by m the voltage gap of discrete components (such as diodes) seen by the piezoelectric
element, and is therefore suitable for energy harvesting from low output voltage levels [42].

Figure 5. Synchronized Switch Harvesting on Inductor (SSHI): (a) Parallel SSHI;

(b) Series SSHI.



As the SSHI-MR also permits an electrical decoupling of the storage stage from the extraction stage, it
is possible to combine it with the parallel SSHI, leading to the concept of hybrid SSHI (Figure 6[43]),
which allows harvesting four times a period (vs. 2 in the previous cases) both during inversion and
conduction of the rectifier, when the rectified voltage is less than the maximum piezovoltage
(operating parallel SSHI); otherwise only the SSHI-MR is operating. Although the hybrid SSHI does
not further improve the conversion enhancement (typical gain of 8 compared to the standard
approach), it does permit widening the load bandwidth.
Using typical components, the gain, in terms of harvested energy of the SSHI techniques, can reach
up to 10 compared to the classical implementation under constant displacement magnitude. The SSHI
also permits increasing the effective bandwidth of the microgenerators [44]. However, extracting
energy from a structure also modifies its mechanical behavior. In particular, harvesting energy from
vibrations generates a damping effect that limits the power output of the SSHI techniques. This power
output is actually the same as in the standard case. However, the nonlinear interface permits harvesting
a similar energy to the classical implementation but with a dramatically reduced volume of
piezoelectric element, as the power limit is almost reached for a lower global coupling coefficient.
In [45], Wu et al. used a similar architecture to the series SSHI, but with a modified switch control.
The principles of the method, called SSDCI (Synchronized Switching and Discharging to a storage
Capacitor through an Inductor), consists of transferring the electrostatic energy available on the
piezoelectric element to a storage capacitor through an inductance (Figure 7). However, the switching
process is naturally stopped by a diode bridge rectifier when the piezovoltage equals zero. At this
instant there is still energy in the inductance, which is then transferred to the storage capacitor.
However, for high load values (high rectified voltage), the piezoelectric voltage does not reach zero,
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and the circuit performs in a similar fashion than the series SSHI. Such an approach therefore permits
harvesting four times more energy than the standard case over a wide load range.

Figure 6. Hybrid SSHI.

Figure 7. SSDCI.

The last possibility for performing the switching process, consists of assisting the voltage inversion
through the use of an inverter, using pulse-width modulation (PWM) approaches (Figure 8), leading to
the so-called active energy harvesting scheme (that consists of an Ericsson cycle). Such an active
technique therefore permits an almost perfect inversion [46,47], yielding an outstanding harvested
energy level (proportional to the output voltage, and thus not limited), although requiring significant
external energy for driving the PWM command; possibly compromising the operations of the approach
as will be discussed later. Another approach for enhancing the inversion (and thus the output power)
consists of performing a two-step switching [48], typically increasing the energy output of the SSH
techniques by 40%, under constant displacement magnitude.

Figure 8. Active energy harvesting scheme.

3.2. Load Decoupling Interfaces

The previously exposed approaches consisted of directly connecting the piezoelectric element to the
storage stage (possibly through an inductor). However, because of this connection, the extracted
energy and, therefore, harvested powers are closely dependent on the connected load. In realistic
applications, however, the load may not be fixed in advance, and can even change with time according
to the state of the connected system (e.g., sleep mode, RF communication, etc.).
Hence, in order to counteract this drawback, using the switching concept in a slightly different way
has been proposed. In these techniques, the inductance is used as an energy storage element. The
energy harvesting process is therefore performed in two steps. First, the energy available on the
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piezoelement is transferred to the inductance. Then the piezoelement is disconnected from the circuit,
and the energy stored in the inductor is transferred to the storage capacitor. This therefore prevents the
direct connection of the piezoelectric element to the load, and thus leads to a harvested energy
independent of the connected system.
The direct application of this concept leads to the Synchronous Electric Charge Extraction (SECE)
technique, depicted in Figure 9 [49]. In addition to the independence of the harvested power from the
load, such a technique also permits a gain of 4 in terms of scavenged energy compared to the standard
approach. However, when considering the damping effect, the SECE features a critical value of the
figure of merit given by the product of the squared coupling coefficient k2 (giving the amount of
energy that can be converted into electric energy) by the mechanical quality factor QM (reflecting the
effective available energy). Above this threshold, the harvested energy decreases as the product k2QM
increases. This is explained by the fact that it is not possible to control the trade-off between energy
extraction and damping effect. From a mechanical point of view, the SECE technique may be seen to
be equivalent to the SSDS (Synchronized Switch Damping on Short-circuit) damping technique ([29]).

Figure 9. Synchronous Electric Charge Extraction (SECE).

In order to be able to control this trade-off, it is possible to combine the series SSHI with the SECE,
leading to the Double Synchronized Switch Harvesting (DSSH) technique [50], shown in Figure 10.
This approach consists first of transferring a part of the electrostatic energy on the piezoelectric
element to an intermediate storage capacitor Cint, and using the remaining energy for the inversion
process, and then transferring the energy on Cint to the inductance and finally to the storage stage.
Through the tuning of the capacitance ratio x = Cint/C0, such a technique permits controlling the
amount of extracted energy, and thus the above-mentioned trade-off, as well as the trade-off between
conversion enhancement and harvested energy. By properly tuning the value of the intermediate to
piezoelectric capacitance ratio, it can be shown that the harvested power, considering a constant
displacement magnitude, can be 6 times higher than when using the classical energy harvesting
interface. When considering the damping effect, the DSSH allows harvesting a significant amount of
energy even for low coupling coefficient (and typically requires 10 times less piezomaterial than the
classical approach for the same power output), although it features the same power limit as the
standard technique for highly coupled, weakly damped systems excited at one of their resonance
frequencies. The DSSH may be further enhanced by leaving a small amount of energy (i.e., non zero
voltage) on the intermediate capacitor, leading to the concept of Enhanced Synchronized Switch
Harvesting (ESSH[51], which allows a finer control of the trade-offs between energy extraction and
voltage increase, and between extracted energy and damping effect. The ESSH approach also permits a
lower sensitivity to a mismatch in the capacitance ratio [51].
Micromachines 2011, 2 283

Figure 10. Double Synchronized Switch Harvesting (DSSH).

Another approach consists of using the SECE technique but adding an energy feedback loop from
the energy storage stage to the piezoelectric element itself that permits applying an initial voltage to
the active material [52]. The principles of such an approach, depicted in Figure 11, consist of:
i. Extracting the energy from the piezoelectric element (using the SECE interface - S1 and L1).
ii. Providing energy to the piezoelectric insert, from the storage stage (S21, S22 and L2).
iii. Let the voltage increase by leaving the active material in open-circuit condition.

Figure 11. Energy harvesting, featuring energy injection.

Such an energy injection technique therefore permits bypassing the limits of the unidirectional
stand-alone techniques presented so far (this excludes the case of the active energy harvesting
scheme), and features a harvested energy gain of up to 40 (typically 20 using off-the-shelf
components) compared to the classical system when considering constant displacement magnitude.
When the damping effect cannot be neglected, the energy feedback loop, by a particular energy
resonance effect, allows bypassing the power limit of the previously exposed techniques.

4. Discussion

This section outlines the performances of the considered energy harvesting schemes as well as their
implementation issues.

4.1. Performance Comparison

Here the performance of the energy harvesting systems will be compared. For the sake of
simplicity, it is assumed that the input force is monochromatic (broadband excitation will be discussed
in Section 4.2). When considering that the system features a constant displacement magnitude uM (This
assumption relates to the case where the structure is excited out of resonance or when the global
electromechanical coupling is weak and/or the mechanical quality factor low so that the backward
coupling of the piezoelectric element can be neglected), the power that can be harvested as a function
of the connected load for each of the discussed technique is depicted in Figure 12. In order to make
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these charts as independent as possible from the system parameters, the loads and powers have been
normalized with respect to the optimal load and maximum power in the standard case:
RL opt stand
4C0 f 0
Pmax stand
f0 uM 2


and the figures only depend on the inversion factor and extraction efficiency C, which are
respectively fixed at 0.8 and 90%, and transformer ratio m for the hybrid SSHI (set to 20). In the case
of the ESSH, the remaining voltage on the intermediate capacitor has been set close to its optimal
value [51].

Figure 12. Normalized harvested powers under constant vibration magnitude.

Standard Parallel SSHI Series SSHI Hybrid SSHI SSDCI
20 20 20 20 20
Normalized output

Normalized output

Normalized output

Normalized output

Normalized output
15 15 15 15 15
power (a.u.)

power (a.u.)

power (a.u.)

power (a.u.)

power (a.u.)
10 10 10 10 10

5 5 5 5 5

0 0 0 0 0
-3 0 3 -3 0 3 -3 0 3 -3 0 3 -3 0 3
10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
Normalized load (a.u.) Normalized load (a.u.) Normalized load (a.u.) Normalized load (a.u.) Normalized load (a.u.)
Ericsson (active) SECE DSSH ESSH Energy injection
20 20 20 20 20
Normalized output

Normalized output

Normalized output

Normalized output

Normalized output

15 15 15 15 15
power (a.u.)

power (a.u.)

power (a.u.)

power (a.u.)

power (a.u.)

10 10 10 10 10

5 5 5 5 5

0 0 0 0 0
-3 0 3 -3 0 3 -3 0 3 -3 0 3 -3 0 3
10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
Normalized load (a.u.) Normalized load (a.u.) Normalized load (a.u.) Normalized load (a.u.) Normalized load (a.u.)

This figure clearly demonstrates the ability of the nonlinear processing to significantly enhance the
conversion enhancement (and thus the power generation ability) of microgenerators when the
backward coupling can be neglected (high mechanical damping coefficient and/or low coupling).
When using the SSH approach, the harvested power gain is typically 10 compared to the classical
technique. However, it will be further shown that the two schemes feature the same power limit for
highly coupled, weakly damped systems. The particular principles of the active energy harvesting
scheme also permit an outstanding power output (theoretically infinite), but it has to be noted that the
switching and driving losses have not been taken into account in the figure. A full analysis of the
energy transfer and energy balance would show the limits of this technique. The damping effect (in the
constant displacement magnitude case, the input energy is neither fixed nor bounded) not taken into
account here, would also decrease the power harvested by the active scheme.
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Although the series SSHI features a power slightly less than the parallel SSHI, it permits a decrease
of the optimal load, which may be beneficial for realistic systems, as the dielectric behavior of
piezodevices associated with the low frequencies of vibration leads to relatively high optimal
resistance (usually several hundreds of kiloohms in standard case). Hence the series SSHI may be
more adapted to electronic devices whose input impedance is less than this value, which is generally
the case. However, although they permit a high power gain, the SSHI approaches are strongly
dependent on the connected load, which would be problematic if the connected system would have an
input impedance varying with time (corresponding, for example, to a change in state, e.g., from active
transmission to sleep mode). An additional stage aimed at providing a constant load seen by the
piezoelectric element would therefore be required [53-58], but would also introduce some losses (the
efficiency of self-powered load adaptation stage is typically around 7580% [54,55]).
Such an case does not occur when using the SECE, DSSH or ESSH approaches, as these techniques
provide a natural load adaptation, although providing lower power output (it can however be noted that
the global output of SSHI generator with load adaptation stage is similar to the harvested power of the
DSSH and ESSH; the latter requiring less components as well). To a lesser extent, the SSDCI also
permits an independent harvested power from the load as long as the rectified voltage (or equivalently
the load) is less than a critical value.
Finally, using a part of the harvested energy to allow a bidirectional energy transfer (energy
injection technique) allows outperforming all the previously exposed techniques, with a typical energy
gain of 20 using typical off-the-shelf components. Such an energy harvesting magnification may be
explained by a particular energy resonance effect that occurs at the optimal load. As the power
output increases, the injected energy increases as well; this leads to an increase of the harvested energy
and so on. It can be seen on Figure 12 that for low load value (and thus low voltage output), the energy
injection technique performs in a similar way to the SECE.
The associated energy cycles for each technique are depicted in Figure 13, showing that the
nonlinear techniques describe either a Stirling cycle (series SSHI, SSHI-MR, SSDCI, SECE, DSSH,
ESSH and energy injection), an Ericsson cycle (active scheme), or a combination of the two (parallel
SSHI, hybrid SSHI).
When considering that the converse piezoelectric effect may not be neglected (low damping and
high electromechanical coupling), harvesting electrical energy decreases the amount of mechanical
energy in the structure, leading to a damping effect that limits the conversion. In this case, when
considering that the system is driven by a constant force magnitude, the harvested powers as a function
of normalized loads and powers, as well as of the figure of merit k2QM, given by the product of the
squared coupling coefficient by the mechanical quality factor, are depicted in Figure 14. The load axis
has been normalized in the same way as previously stated and the parameters , C and m are the same,
but the power is in this case normalized with respect to the maximal output power of the unidirectional
FM 2
Plim (4)
which occurs because of the damping effect.
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Figure 13. Normalized energy cycles (converted and transferred) for different energy
harvesting interfaces: (a) Standard; (b) Parallel SSHI, hybrid SSHI; (c) Series SSHI,
SSHI-MR, SSDCI, SECE, DSSH, ESSH, Energy injection; (d) Ericsson (active

1 1

extracted charge


0 0

-1 -1
-1 0 1 -1 0 1
Normalized voltage Normalized voltage

1 1
extracted charge


0 0

-1 -1
-1 0 1 -1 0 1
Normalized voltage Normalized voltage

1 1
extracted charge


0.5 0.5

0 0
-0.5 -0.5
-1 -1
-1 0 1 -1 0 1
Normalized voltage Normalized voltage

1 1
extracted charge


0.5 0.5

0 0
-0.5 -0.5
-1 -1
-1 0 1 -1 0 1
Normalized voltage Normalized voltage
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Figure 14. (a) Normalized harvested powers and (b) maximal harvested powers under
constant force magnitude.

Parallel SSHI
Series SSHI
Hybrid SSHI
1 Ericsson (active)
Energy injection




0 1 2 3 4 5
k 2QM

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In this case, it can be shown that the use of nonlinear approaches permits harvesting the same
amount of energy than the standard approach but using much less volume of active materials (i.e., for
much lower values of k2QM), although the unidirectional techniques no longer improve the harvesting
abilities for high values of k2QM compared to the standard case. In particular, the DSSH and ESSH
(which have been depicted in a single plot because of their similarity) and energy injection techniques
show high slopes for low values of the figure of merit, having the same power generation abilities as
the standard approach, but with 10 times less active materials. These approaches, through the tuning of
the capacitance ratio x, also feature a constant power output after a critical value of k2QM, contrary to
the SECE which is a decreasing function of k2QM after a critical value of the figure of merit
((k2QM)critical = /4).
However, the most efficient technique among the unidirectional energy transfer approaches remains
the active scheme, which permits reaching the power limit for very low value of k2QM (theoretically,
Plim is reached as soon as k2QM0). Hence, it can be concluded that unidirectional nonlinear
approaches are particularly interesting for low coupled systems, but do not induce any improvement
for highly coupled, weakly damped systems (which is however an unusual casethe value of k2QM is
generally less than 0.2 in realistic applications). As can be seen in Figure 14, only the energy injection
scheme (that features bidirectional energy transfer) permits bypassing this limit, thanks to the energy
resonance effect. The technique also shows a decrease in the harvested power for high values of k2QM,
as the trade-off between energy extraction and damping effect cannot be controlled. However, it is
possible that the implementation of a DSSH-like energy extraction interface would permit a
non-decreasing harvested power.
From Figure 14 it can be seen that the optimal load also varies with k2QM (denoting the trade-off
between energy harvesting and vibration damping), which shows the advantage of using load
decoupling techniques (SECE, DSSH and ESSH), and, although the latter features a lower harvested
power because of the extraction efficiency C, one has to keep in mind that the realistic implementation
of SSH techniques requires the use of an additional load adaptation stage whose losses make their
global maximum power output similar to that obtained with the SECE or DSSH

4.2. Implementation Issues

When designing systems that aim at scavenging energy from environmental sources, particular
attention has to be placed on the design in terms of realistic implementation (e.g., the energy balance
between harvested energy and required energy should be positive).
In terms of implementation issues, several architectures have been proposed to make the switch
control autonomous [21,26,27,32-35]. In these works, the extremum detection is usually designed by
computing the derivative of the piezovoltage (which gives the extremum position when it cancels), but
the derivative operator is not really stable and is sensitive to noise. Another commonly used approach for
the design of the self-powered switch lies in the use of a differentiation of the piezovoltage. This is
obtained by comparing the voltage itself with its delayed version (Figure 15). The Synchronized Switch
systems can therefore be made truly self-powered using a few typical off-the-shelf components [32-34].
In addition, thanks to the principles of the maximum detection, the device can operate in a wide
frequency range. However, for the other techniques (SECE, DSSH, ESSH and energy injection), the
Micromachines 2011, 2 289

self-powered design may be a bit more complex because of the command of the digital switch,
although some implementations have been proposed [58].

Figure 15. Principles of the self-powered switching device.

Comparator Switching
Delay device
+ energy

Although the previous analysis has been done considering sine excitation, realistic solicitation
would more likely be random. Although few analyses have been conducted in this domain for
nonlinear systems [60], it can be stated that load-independent techniques would perform better than the
other approaches, as the optimal loads are frequency-dependent.
In the particular case of small-scale systems and microsystems (e.g., MEMS devices), some
considerations occur with respect to the implementation of the control systems [61]. In particular, the
magnetic components (inductor and transformers) may be seen as a limitation in terms of the
miniaturization of the device. However, Liu et al. proposed a process for realizing on-chip inductors
and transformers which typically require a surface of a few square millimeters [62,63]. In [39],
changing the inductor with a capacitor for a better integration has been proposed. However, the
dielectric nature of piezoelectric elements makes such an approach quite unsuitable for these systems.
However, the main limitations of piezoelectric generators at microscale are due to the electronic
command, and particularly discrete components (such as diodes and transistors) that feature voltage gap
whose values which are typically a few hundreds of millivolts [35]. As the voltage output of microscale
generator is often below this threshold, no power can be harvested. In this case, the cumulative voltage
increase allowed by the nonlinear process is helpful to bypass this minimum voltage requirement, and the
use of a transformer in the SSHI-MR and hybrid SSHI techniques permits a great reduction of the
impacts of discrete electronic components (the voltage gap seen by the piezoelectric element is divided
by the transformer ratio m). It is also possible to slightly modify the series SSHI technique to remove the
diodes without changing the circuit operations as shown in Figure 16.

Figure 16. Diodeless Series SSHI.

5. Conclusion

This paper proposed a comprehensive review of nonlinear energy harvesting interfaces for
performance enhancement of vibration energy harvesters featuring the piezoelectric element. The
principles of each scheme have been presented and main results summarized, and the specificities of
Micromachines 2011, 2 290

each of them emphasized, in terms of output power, load dependency and performance under low
piezoelectric output voltage. From the analyses done though the paper, it is possible to classify the
techniques according to several criteria. As a conclusion, Table 1 proposes a tentative visual
description of the performance of the exposed techniques considering several factors.

Table 1. Classification of the harvesting techniques.

Harvested energy
Load Implementation
Technique Constant Constant force Constant force voltage
independency easiness
displacement magnitude- magnitude- harvesting
magnitude Low coupling High coupling


Parallel SSHI

Series SSHI


Hybrid SSHI





/ [64]

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64. The happy face relates the maximum power greater than all the other techniques for moderate
value of k2QM, while the unhappy face denotes the power decrease for high values of the figure
of merit.

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